'Hope Springs' for local extras seeking big screen glimpse of themselves

Stonington - There weren't celebrities or a red carpet or throngs of fans at the Stonington premiere Wednesday of "Hope Springs."

Instead, it was me and about 20 others at the 12:30 p.m. showing at the Regal Cinemas in Pawcatuck - not quite the star-studded affair held Monday in New York City when Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell posed for photos and mingled before their newest flick debuted. But that didn't lessen the delight of the small, mostly female, midday crowd, which seemed to enjoy the movie, much of which was filmed in the borough last September and October.

"It's a neat movie," said Linda Grimm of Pawcatuck. "If I dragged my husband here, he would have walked out because it's a chick flick."

It is somewhat of a chick flick and its theme of a marriage in mid-life crisis will appeal to an older generation. But for locals, the fun is in seeing the borough - and possibly themselves - on the big screen.

I had a vested interest in the movie because last August, I was cast as an extra. I was called in for one day of filming, wrote about my experience in The Day, and admitted to being a little starstruck.

So there I was in the theater Wednesday, looking for myself and my 1999 Volvo V70, which also had been recruited for a day on set. Early on, I saw people I knew, and then, for a split second, myself. There's a close-up of Streep after she's left Steve Carell's office, in search of a bar. As she leaves the picture, there we are: me and my "girlfriend," Katie Curatolo, two indistinguishable blobs of color walking down Diving Street, away from the camera.

"Too bad they didn't show the close up of us 'not being too cheerful!'" Curatolo said in an email Wednesday, referring to our set instructions for the scene.

It's nothing I'll put on my resume. but it is fun to go to a movie and look for yourself.

The same was true for veteran actress Vera Farina of Westerly. We met on set last year. She gave me tips on how to eat lunch - "let the crew go first" - and proved a first-rate extra, so much so that she appears in a scene. Before I saw the movie, Farina told me she knew she had made the film after she saw herself in the movie trailer, sitting behind Tommy Lee Jones in a dinner scene at Captain Jack's Inn (the transformed Inn at Stonington).

"You can see my Italian nose, I'm pretty sure," she said. "I told a few people and got a couple text messages saying 'I totally just saw you on TV.'"

Farina said she recently finished more extra work on the set of "Grown Ups 2" in Boston but said she had much more fun during "Hope Springs" because of the laid-back atmosphere.

"It's fun to do," she said of extra work. "It's fun to say you were on the set of a big Hollywood movie."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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